Jonah 2:1-10 - What to Do When You've Messed Up

Steve Viars February 7, 1998 Jonah 2:1-10

- This morning I’d like to begin our time, as I often do, by asking you a series of questions...
1)  What do you do when you’ve messed up?
2)  What do you do when you’ve gotten yourself in a bad situation as a result of sinful choices and you’re not sure how to get out?
3) Is it possible to get yourself in such a sinful jam that its impossible to get out?

- now the kinds of situations I’m talking about could really run the gamut....
1) It might be something relatively minor where you spoke words that were very insensitive this week to someone in your life.....
- and later you thought --- boy, that was the wrong thing to say...how do I get out of this?

2) Maybe it’s something a lot more significant....where you’ve created a real mess in your marriage after years of neglect and years of arguing and years of violating what the Scripture says about the subject.....
- and then you look around one day and ask....is there any way out of this?.....
- not any way out of the marriage but is there any way out of this vicious downward cycle of pain and confusion?
- see, what do you do when you’ve messed up?

- the reason I raise these questions this morning is because this is the net effect of running from God.
- we’ve been studying the life of a man who’s been doing exactly that.
- the Lord had a ministry assignment for him but this man didn’t feel like doing it.
- so instead of going where God told him to go....and doing what God told him to do....and being what God told him to be....
- he went the other way.....
- he rebelled, he disobeyed, he took off.....he was running from God.

- and we’ve been saying that that same thing can, and does happen to you and me.
- we don't like everything God tells us to do in His Word...
- we don’t like everything God tells us to be in His Word...
- we don’t like everywhere God tells us to go in His Word....
- there are times that goes against our grain.....
- we don’t want to and we don’t feel like it.....
- and instead, in one way, shape of form, we run.

- now a complicating factor is --- its possible for you to be running when your feet aren’t moving.
- The Bible doesn‘t just recognize sins of commission --- doing something you’re not supposed to be doing.....
- the Bible also recognizes sins of omission -- failing to do what God does want you to do.....
- either category is a form of running from God.
- it is a distinct possibility....unless you would want to take the position that you are perfect....there is a distinct possibility that in one way, shape or form, to some degree or another.....either by commission or omission, there is a sense in which you are running from God.
- the problem with that is....this is still God’s world.
- and He has built this principle into His world....the way of the transgressor is hard....
- and its amazing the kind of jams we can get ourselves into....
- its amazing the kind of messes we can make...

- and the question before the house this morning is --- What do you do when you’ve messed up?
- with those questions in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible to Jonah chapter 2.
- for those who are visiting with us, we’ve been studying this book verse by verse.

- if you’re new to studying the Bible, this is not the easiest book in the Bible to find.
- its the 8th to the last book from the end of the OT.
- feel free to look at the Table of Contents in the front of your Bible to find the page number.....the Lord has brought a lot of people to our church that are just starting to learn their way around the Bible.

- now, here’s the short version of what’s happened so far.
- Jonah was a prophet in Israel.
- God came to him and said, “Arise, and go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry against it, because their wickedness had come up before the Lord.”
- well, Jonah didn’t want to do that because Ninevah was in Assyria....and the Assyrians were enemies of Israel.
- so Jonah didn’t like God’s Word....he didn’t feel like obeying God’s Word, so he ran.
- the Bible tells us, instead of going northeast to Ninevah, he headed south to Joppa, boarded a ship that was headed for Tarshish, and paid the fare.

- that worked out great...in fact so much so that Jonah was sound asleep in the bottom of the boat....
- it worked out great until verse 4....when the Bible tells us that God hurled a great wind on the sea.
- and this storm was so fierce that the ship was about to break up.
- and the sailors cast lots to determine “on who’s account this calamity had struck them.”...and the lot fell on Jonah.
- so they came and asked him...what do we have to do to calm this storm and he said...throw me overboard....
- and after a bit of reluctance they finally did and verse 15 says that the sea immediately stopped its raging.

- Can you imagine that in your minds eye....what that must have meant to these unbelieving sailors to instantly go from a fierce storm to a sunny day......
- from a raging sea to a placid lake......
- verse 16 tells us they put their faith in Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth, and made sacrifices and vows to Him.

- now the question we left with last week was....where’s Jonah?
- and this is one of the many places in the Bible where if I were God....thing would be a lot different.
- In fact, there wouldn’t even be a chapter 2......
- because the story would conclude with....Jonah went down to the bottom of the sea....
- glug, glug, glug, glug.....- don’t be disobedient like Jonah......
- but friends, not only is God a God of justice and righteousness who could not allow His prophet keep running without facing chastisement....He is also a God of incredible mercy and grace....who provided a way of escape.....
- verse 17 says....READ 1:17
- now let me ask you, would it be fair to say that Jonah has gotten himself in a jam?

- he is now in the belly of a fish.
- and if there was ever a time for our Bibles to have a scratch and sniff page....this is it.
- and I want to ask you to work as hard as you can at imagining what this must have been like....
- TV has practically ruined our ability to read words on the printed page, or hear a story told orally...and then create the appropriate images in our mind....but that’s exactly what God wants us to do.
- the inside of a fish would be one smelly place....
- do you remember the commercials advertising the stick-up air fresheners where they went around to smelly places and said -- this would be a good place for a stick-up?
- I was in an out-house in Canada and someone had written that on the wall...
- this would be a good place for a stick-up.....

- well, believe me.....THIS was a good place for a stick up.

- now if you’re all hung up about how this could have happened...you’re missing the point.
- George Adam Smith wrote - “This is the tragedy of the Book of Jonah, that a book that is made the means of one of the most sublime revelations of truth in the Old Testament should be known to most only for its connection with a whale.”

- John Kollenberger said - “It is as foolish for the liberal to deny the possibility of taking the fish literally as for the conservative to attempt to identify the species of marine animal that could swallow and sustain a human being for three days and nights.  Both slight the miraculous and power of God.  What Jehovah did to save Jonah is not normal; nor are the other divinely engineered encounters in the book.  Storms at sea are commonplace, but not storms that rise and fall instantaneously.  Plants sprout and grow, but not overnight.  Worms eat and destroy vegetation, but not within a morning.  Great fish devour people, but do not sustain them and disgorge them alive onto the shore.”

- now what are saying, the hardest thing to believe about this book is not the fish.
- the hardest thing to believe is that God would still care enough about this disobedient servant to provide the fish.

- back to the text.....
- there’s no question that Jonah is in a jam....let’s see the steps he takes to get out....
- read 2:-10

- in the time we have remaining, let’s look for this......When you get yourself in a jam, three steps you need to take to get out.

I. Recognize the Consequences of Running


- a very important observation we need to make about Jonah’s Psalm is that the vast majority of it focuses on the price Jonah paid for his disobedience.
- notice the examples:

- my distress - v. 2
- from the depth of Sheol - v. 2
- cast me into the deep - v. 3
- into the heart of the Seas - v. 3
- engulfed by the current - v. 3
- passed over by the breakers and billows - v. 3
- expelled from thy sight - v. 4
- encompassed by water to the point of death - v. 5
- engulfed by the great deep - v. 5
- weeds wrapped around my head - v. 5
- descended to the roots of the mountains - v. 6
- bars of the earth around me forever - v. 6
- in the pit - v. 6
- fainting away - v. 7

- see, what is going on here?
- why is Jonah in the belly of the fish for three days?
- the answer is -- he’s learning....he’s reflecting.....he’s rethinking.....

- one writer said -- “The belly of a fish is not a happy place to live but it is a great place to learn.”
- and why in this Psalm do the majority of the verses describe the price Jonah had to pay for his disobedience?

- the answer to that is...because that’s what needed to change most about Jonah’s thinking in the matter.

- see, what is the relationship between the first two verses of this book, and the third verse?
- the Word of the Lord came to Jonah saying....arise, go to Ninevah.....
- verse 3 --- But Jonah rose us to flee to Tarshish....

- WHY?
- because he had convinced himself that his way was better than God’s....
- he convinced himself that doing God’s will was optional....
- he convinced himself that he could do what he wanted to do and get away with it.....
- he could go where he wanted to go and get away with it.....
- he could be what he wanted to be and get away with it.....

- one Greek philosopher spent several weeks visiting courtrooms.....
- later he wrote...I believe there are three reasons why people commit crimes....
1) Either they don't believe they’ll be caught.....
2) Or they believe, if they are caught, they won’t be punished......
3) Or they believe, if they are caught and punished.....the cost of the punishment will not be as great as the benefit derived from committing the crime.

- the first step to Jonah getting out of this jam is coming face to face with the consequences of running.
- “The belly of a fish is not a happy place to live but it is a great place to learn.”
- God wanted Jonah to be convinced in his heart....running from God is not funny.....running from God is not acceptable....running from God is not an option.....running from God will not be tolerated......
- running from God stinks.......there is nothing worth paying the price Jonah had to pay.

- Now, can I ask you a question, friend.
- Is there any sense in which you are running from God today?
- either by commission --- doing something God does not want you to do....
- or omission --- failing to do something He does want you to do.......
- Is there any sense in which you’re running from God today?

1) You’ve never trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.....
- and God keeps bringing these believers into your life.....
- a family member.....
- a co-worker......
- someone who’s been talking to you about the need of repenting of your sin and trusting Christ as savior and Lord......
- Are you running from God?

2) Or you’re a believer.....but you’re running.....
- you’re at odds with another person in your life.....
- and you know the Bible says that you should communicate with that person.....
- you know the Bible says that you need to try to be reconciled with that person.....

- but you don’t like that idea....you certainly don’t feel like it.....
- in fact, you’re almost enjoying your bitterness and private pity party
- So you’ve clammed up around that person.....
- you’re giving them the slow freeze......
- friend, are you running from God?

3) the Lord has placed someone around you who doesn’t know Christ....
- and you know you should talk to them....
- you know you should be concerned about them.....
- you know you should reach out to them....

- but there’s a knot in you throat the size of a basketball...
- and you’ve come up with 200 reasons why that person will never trust Christ and why you’re certainly not the one to tell them.....
- Friend, are you running from God?

- someone might say --- yes, I am in a particular area of my life and I don’t intend to do anything about it!
- Oh.....I hope you like the smell of fish.....
- I hope you like conditions that are extremely slimy.....
- Because if you’re one of God’s children.......He will go to incredible lengths to convince you that running from Him and His plan for you is not a very good idea.

- “incredible lengths”.......Pastor Viars, you’re always exaggerating.....
- [point to the first chapter of Jonah]....INCREDIBLE LENGTHS.....If anything, I’m understating the case.
- what about the person who would say.....
- PV, I’ve been running.......
- and I’m in a jam that’s so bad I don't think there is a way out.

- listen, if you would be willing to repent.....
- if you would be willing to agree with God.....
- if you would be willing to say.....the conclusions I’d drawn about the acceptability of running from God were wrong.
- Running from Him was not acceptable....it was sinful
- running from Him was not funny....it was sad....
- running from Him was not smart...it was dumb.....

- Running from God stinks.....and I don't want to do it any more.....the consequences are too great.
- listen, there is great hope for the person who has come to that position in their life.
- there is great hope for a person who has come to that position in their heart.
- and regardless of what God had to use to get you to this point, and regardless of how long it took you to get there.....
- if in the depth of your heart you have concluded with Jonah that running from God stinks, and you want to draw near to Him, and you want to walk with Him, and you want to have fellowship with him, and you want to draw near to Him.....
- I can promise you....there is great hope for you.

- and for the person who would say....But you don't know how bad my situation is....
- its not this bad.....
- you don't know how much my situation stinks....
- it doesn’t stink this much!

- Jonah chapter 2 is a beautiful blend of the justice....and mercy of God.

- now, verse 8 gives us a second step in getting out of a jam caused by our sin....


II. Recognize the Source of Running

- you might say --- what do you mean -- recognize the source of our running.
- well, let me answer that question with a question....

- was Jonah’s running problem....fundamentally speaking....a problem of the feet?

- no...of course not...the problem with Jonah’s feet was the heart to which his feet were connected.

- that’s why we read what we do in verse 8 ---Those who regard vain idols...Forsake their faithfulness
- a very helpful way of translating that verse is found in the NIV....
Jonah 2:8 - Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

- now let me ask you a very important question.....who is Jonah talking about in verse 8?
- who has he been talking about in this entire Psalm?
- is there any grammatical reason to believe that he has switched subjects?
- Jonah is talking about himself....verse 8 is a profound summary of all we’ve studied in this man’s life up to this point.
- Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

- you might say -- PV, are you saying that Jonah was an idol worshipper?
- let me answer that question with a question.....

- Had he been worshipping God....in any real, meaningful, practical way...Had Jonah been worshipping God with his life?.........NO
- then what alternative does that leave?

- Is there such a thing as “neutrality” when it comes to the matter of worship?

- God has made us worshipping beings and we will either worship and serve Him....
- or we will worship and serve someone or something else.......

- see, a fundamental question in the Bible is.....Who or what will you worship?
- Who or what is your God?
- What do you want, desire, seek, or pursue?
- What are your goals and expectations?
- Where do you look for security, meaning, happiness, and fulfillment?
- What would make you happy?
- What do you fear?
- What do you worry about?
- What do you love and what do you hate?
- What do you define as success?

- see, Jonah was functioning as an idolater.
- whether or not it was actually true of his hands, it was certainly true of his heart.

- John Calvin said, the human heart is a factory of idols.

- Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

- can I ask you to zero in on that word “cling” for a minute?
- I chased that word down this week in Hebrew and was surprised by what I found.

- what does it mean to cling to worthless idols?
- the same original word translated “cling” in Jonah 2:8 is also used twice in the second half of Psalm 127:1...once as a noun and once as a verb......

- here’s how that verse reads in the NIV......”Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”

- now, which word translated “cling” back in Jonah is used twice here in Psalm 127?

- the word watch. or watchmen.........
- now, factor that back into our text in Jonah.....
- what’s he saying when he speaks of “clinging to worthless idols...?.......
- what’s that have to do with watching a city, being a watchman?
- the answer is --- he’s talking about what you focus on....what you set your eyes on....what you set your heart on.....

- Jonah got his eyes off of God....
- he got his eyes off of the value of people....
- he got his eyes off of the joy of submitting to Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth.....

- and instead his focus was my way....my plans.....my agenda.....my will......
- and when a new ministry opportunity came along.....
- because it was hard....because it went against his grain....
- THE IDOLATRY IN HIS HEART LED TO RUNNING IN HIS FEET.

- Jonah needed to come to a place of recognizing that about his heart...and admitting that about his heart......
- you say...was it easy for him to admit that?
- no....it took Jonah three days in the belly of a fish before he would be willing to make such an admission.....what’s that tell us about how well ingrained these matters can be in our hearts?
- Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

- now, a good question to be asking about now would be....How did God want all of this to affect OT Israel?
- that’s an important question because we can’t apply this to ourselves properly if we jerk it out of the context in which it was originally given?

- well, in order to properly apply this to OT Israel, you know what we have to do a little bit of, don’t you?
- history and geography......[say it with meaning!]

- do you remember the map we’ve been making of the auditorium?

- let’s redo it.
- the three bodies of water.....
- the Dead Sea......the Sea of Galilee.....the Jordan River......
- the big body of water over there?.....the Mediterranean.....

- Jonah ministered in the late 700’s B.C.
- God’s chosen nation was actually divided at the time.....

- the southern kingdom -- Judah with its capital at Jerusalem.....
- the northern kingdom -- Israel, with its capital at Samaria.

- so here’s God’s chosen nation....divided from one another, fighting with one another.....
- the northern kingdom where Jonah was prophesying had even established a rival center of worship and system of worship.....

- what we are seeing over and over and over again is what Jonah was doing as a person, Israel; was doing as a nation......
- you might ask...are you saying God’s chosen nation was actually going after idols?
- look at II Kings 17
- these verses are describing why God allowed this nation to be conquered about 50 years after the ministry of Jonah.....
- read II Kings 17:13-16, 22-23

- see, what’s the point......
- if you want to get out of a jam caused by sin.....
- you have to recognize and be willing to admit the consequences of running......
- and you have to recognize and be willing to admit the source of running.....

- this isn’t theological small potatoes......this is idolatry of the heart.

- now you might say.....you’re right Pastor Viars......
- this Jonah was bad.......
- and these Israelites were bad.....
- thanks for pointing that out......

- friends, did we come here today simply to talk about Jonah?
- did we come here to simply talk about Israel?

- no, we came here to talk about.....[the person sitting next to you!]
- look if you would at I Corinthians 10:6......

- this verse is telling us why God recorded these OT events for us as NT believers.....
- and though this particular verse is referring to another episode in the OT...the principle is the same.....

- read I Cor. 10:6-7 [through IDOLATERS]

- let’s go back and think about any way that you might be running from God......

- what we’ve been studying this morning is so true......
- If there’s any sense in which you’re running.....you’ll never get a handle on it unless you follow Jonah’s example......
1) Are you convinced that the consequences of running from God are not worth whatever joy you might derive......has God brought you to a firm conviction about that?
2) have you looked at what might be, or what might have been, going on in your heart that was the source of the run?

- someone might say --- PV, God has given me a clear witnessing opportunity...and I haven’t taken it.....
- clearly its been one of those “sins of omission examples of running from God...”
- but it does reveal sin in the heart.......
- I have been worshipping my pride and my reputation more than I’ve worshipped the God of heaven.
- friend, you can acknowledge that here today in God’s house before you get as far as Jonah did.

- someone else might say....God wants me to be reconciled to a person in my life....and I haven’t done it.....
- I haven’t taken the step I need to take....I haven’t made the call I need to make....
- I’ve been running from God on this matter.....
- I’ve been worshipping the god of false peace......
- I’ve been worshipping at the idol of self-pity and bitterness......

- listen.....you can acknowledge that today in God’s house before it goes any further.....

- now, if that needs to be done...what’s the third step in the process......
- well, can I ask you to think about this....isn’t it amazing that there is [a third step]

- this is another one of those places in the Bible where you or I were God....the next verses would probably read a lot different than they do.
- then Jonah got digested by the fish.......
- then Jonah learned that his repentance was a little late.....

- But I will sacrifice to Thee With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.  Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.

III. Recognize the Opposite of Running, and Do it.

- Jonah promised to sacrifice......
- you don’t have to do that because God provided that in the finished work of His son...the one who was greater than Jonah.
- He came with a voice of thanksgiving and promised God that he would do what he was supposed to do.
- He admitted that salvation was from the Lord.....
- and God restored him to his place of service and potential effectiveness and blessing.....

- Conclude

 

 

 


This is the tragedy of the Book of Jonah, that a book that is made the means of one of the most sublime revelations of truth in the Old Testament should be known to most only for its connection with a whale.
George Adam Smith
It is as foolish for the liberal to deny the possibility of taking the fish literally as for the conservative to attempt to identify the species of marine animal that could swallow and sustain a human being for three days and nights.  Both slight the miraculous and power of God.  What Jehovah did to save Jonah is not normal; nor are the other divinely engineered encounters in the book.  Storms at sea are commonplace, but not storms that rise and fall instantaneously.  Plants sprout and grow, but not overnight.  Worms eat and destroy vegetation, but not within a morning.  Great fish devour people, but do not sustain them and disgorge them alive onto the shore.
John Kollenberger
• my distress - v. 2
• from the depth of Sheol - v. 2
• cast me into the deep - v. 3
• into the heart of the Seas - v. 3
• engulfed by the current - v. 3
• passed over by the breakers and billows - v. 3
• expelled from thy sight - v. 4
• encompassed by water to the point of death - v. 5
• engulfed by the great deep - v. 5
• weeds wrapped around my head - v. 5
• descended to the roots of the mountains - v. 6
• bars of the earth around me forever - v. 6
• in the pit - v. 6
• fainting away - v. 7

The belly of a fish is not a happy place to live but it is a great place to learn.

 

Jonah 2:8 - Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

• Who or what will you worship?
• Who or what is your God?
• What do you want, desire, seek, or pursue?
• What are your goals and expectations?
• Where do you look for security, meaning, happiness, and fulfillment?
• What would make you happy?
• What do you fear?
• What do you worry about?
• What do you love and what do you hate?
• What do you define as success?

Psalm 127:1 - ...Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video